Great for low spenders: A review of the British Airways American Express Credit Card
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Editor’s note: This review has been updated with new information.
British Airways’ Executive Club is the largest and most popular airline loyalty programme in the United Kingdom.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to collect Avios, the currency of Executive Club, is with a British Airways cobranded American Express credit card.
Today, we’re taking a look at the no-annual-fee cobranded British Airways credit card — the British Airways American Express Credit Card. It could be a good choice for low-spenders and those who are new to the world of points and miles.
Who is this card for?
The British Airways American Express Credit Card is a “base level” card designed for people who want to start out collecting Avios, the currency of the British Airways Executive Club, without paying any annual fees. This card is also for those who already fly British Airways or its Oneworld partners and want to boost their Avios balance through everyday spending.
There is no minimum income requirement to be approved for this card. However, if you already hold an American Express card in the U.K., be sure to note the restrictions on welcome bonuses.
Welcome bonus and annual fee
As a base level card, the BA Amex Card has no annual fee in your first or subsequent years. Even without an annual fee, it still provides a welcome bonus of 5,000 Avios after spending £1,000 in the first three months of card membership. Based on TPG’s current valuation of Avios, that welcome bonus is worth around £55.
This credit card has a representative APR of 22.2% variable and a purchase rate of 22.2% p.a. with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.
Because this card doesn’t carry an annual fee, you may not think you can easily earn Avios for your everyday spend. However, you will receive 1 Avios per £1 spent on all purchases. Unfortunately, no bonus Avios are earned for spending directly with British Airways, as you might have hoped from an airline cobranded card.
Remember, if you meet the minimum spend of £1,000 in the first three months to earn the 5,000 Avios welcome bonus referred to above, you’ll also earn an extra 1,000 Avios, as you’ll be earning 1 Avios for every £1 spent.
Additionally, the card charges a 2.99% foreign transaction fee, which is more than the value of the Avios it would earn for these purchases. Because of the foreign transaction fee, it might be best to keep this card in your wallet when travelling internationally or making a non-Sterling purchase.
Read our ultimate guide to redeeming Avios here. Avios are easy to redeem because there are so many options, from flights, cabin upgrades, hotel stays, gift vouchers and shopping.
Those 6,000 Avios are enough for a one-way peak or off-peak flight with British Airways from London to the likes of Edinburgh (EDI), Copenhagen (CPH), Berlin (BER), Amsterdam (AMS) or Jersey (JER), plus £17.50 in fees, taxes and surcharges as part of British Airways’ great Reward Flight Saver offer.
As there’s no annual fee, you’re coming out well ahead before we even consider the Companion Voucher.
The biggest perk of this credit card — aside from the welcome bonus and lack of annual fee — is the Companion Voucher. The Companion Voucher is one of the most valuable benefits for British Airways flyers. In short, once you’ve got one of the Vouchers, you can take a companion with you on the same flight and in the same cabin when you redeem Avios for a BA reward flight. Taxes, fees and other carrier charges still apply to the companion seat.
Any Companion Vouchers earned on this card from 1 September are changing. It doesn’t matter when your card’s “year” starts and ends, it depends entirely on when you earn the Companion Voucher.
Here is a summary of the changes:
|Companion Vouchers earned before 1 September||Companion Vouchers earned after 1 September|
|Spend required to earn Voucher||£20,000||£12,000|
|Voucher routing rules||Journey must start in the U.K.||Journey can start anywhere British Airways flies|
|Voucher validity (must book and travel by)||24 months||24 months|
|Classes of service Voucher can be redeemed for||Any||Economy only (Euro Traveller and World Traveller)|
The first and second changes in this table are definite improvements to the basic Companion Voucher. The spend required to earn one drops significantly, and the routing rules are relaxed. Currently, you can only redeem a Companion Voucher for a journey starting in the U.K. This does not need to be London, for example, you could redeem for Edinburgh (EDI) to London (LHR) and onwards to Miami (MIA) and return if you wish, as the journey still begins in the U.K.
From 1 September, this rule changes. You can start your journey anywhere to redeem your Companion Voucher. This is handy if you live outside the U.K. or perhaps want to save money on the APD tax by starting your journey in Paris (CDG), for example. You can have up to four sectors per Companion Voucher redemption, so if you wanted to start your journey outside of the U.K. you could redeem Paris (CDG) to London (LHR) to Miami (MIA) after 1 September.
This rule change is also handy if you only want to redeem your Companion Voucher for a one-way journey. You could start anywhere British Airways flies and redeem it for a one-way flight back to the U.K.
Open jaws are still allowed, too, though you may need to call British Airways to book this if it’s not possible to do it online.
The last change in the table above is the biggest and most important. From 1 September, you can only redeem the Voucher for economy class redemptions. Before then, you can redeem for any class of service where you can find two British Airways Avios seats together on the same flight. On high-frequency routes like New York (JFK), it’s traditionally been easy to use the basic Companion Voucher to book two Club World seats — and sometimes even two First seats.
There is still value in the Companion Voucher from this card after 1 September, you’ll just need to think differently about how to use it as you won’t be able to use it for premium cabin redemptions.
In addition to the Companion Voucher, the basic British Airways Amex Credit Card also comes with several other perks. For example, cardholders get refund protection and purchase protection. For refunds, eligible items that were purchased with the card in the U.K. are covered for 90 days. The insurance covers up to £200 to refund or replace the item, so long as the retailer won’t do the same.
For the purchase protection benefit, eligible items stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchasing with the card will be covered. The protection to repair or replace the purchase is covered to £2,500 per item.
The card’s travel accident insurance covers up to £75,000 for the accidental death or accident resulting in the complete loss or permanent loss of use of limb, sight, speech or hearing while travelling in a public vehicle. In order to be eligible, the ticket must have been purchased with the British Airways Amex Credit Card.
You can find the full terms of what’s covered with the insurances on the Amex website (PDF). Keep in mind that some of these benefits, such as the insurances, are subject to enrollment.
Finally, you can opt to have free supplementary cards for any close family and friends in order to maximise your return on the card. But remember you, as the primary cardholder, will still be responsible for paying the balance each month.
Which cards compete with this card?
The premium version of this card, the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card from American Express, does have an annual fee but comes with a much larger welcome bonus and earns more Avios per pound spent. Plus, with its preferential earning structure that card also earns bonus Avios for spending with British Airways directly, it could be a better option for frequent BA flyers.
But the most important difference is that you’ll earn the lucrative Companion Voucher after spending only £10,000 on the Premium Plus Card versus £20,000 on this basic card (reducing to £12,000 from 1 September 2021). Also remember, the Premium Plus Card:
- Gives a longer Voucher validity period of 24 months, rather than 12 months with the base level card; and
- Allows you to redeem the Voucher for any cabin of service BA flies at all times, rather than just economy which kicks in for the free card’s Companion Vouchers earned after 1 September.
If you are planning to spend £10,000 on any British Airways American Express credit card in your card membership year, you may wish to consider the Premium Plus Card instead of the basic BA Amex, as it’ll trigger the 2-for-1 Companion Voucher much sooner. For Vouchers earned after 1 September, the Companion Voucher from the Premium Plus Card is significantly more valuable as it can be used for premium cabins.
So why do we say this is a solid card for low spenders? Because if you are spending less than £10,000 in a year (i.e. less than £830 every month) and you won’t earn a valuable Companion Voucher on any card, then with this card you can still earn Avios on every purchase without paying any annual fees. If you were spending £800 per month, you would still earn 9,600 Avios over the course of the year with no annual fee.
That’s enough for a return peak or off-peak flight to the likes of Amsterdam (AMS), Copenhagen (CPH) or Edinburgh (EDI) plus fixed fees and taxes.
Not bad for a card with no annual fees.
This card’s earning rate is simple and American Express is accepted at a large number of retailers in the U.K., making it easier to earn valuable British Airways Avios to be used on your next redemption.
If you can earn a Companion Voucher it’s a good idea to look at both British Airways American Express cards side by side to decide on the easiest way to earn the Voucher, as you can potentially obtain hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of value from the Voucher, depending on how you use it. Do keep in mind that the Companion Voucher from this card becomes less valuable after 1 September, while the Companion Voucher from the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card becomes more valuable and the gap between the two cards’ benefits widens.
If you are a low spender but still want rewards for every purchase with no annual fees with a welcome bonus, this is a solid option.
Featured photo by John Gribben / The Points Guy.
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